To be sure, Brock Turner has been painted as the very poster child of the so-called “affluenza” stereotype. He’s white. His family is wealthy. He’s a star athlete at a highly respected school. This alone lately is enough to draw the ire of the citizenry, and as the gulf between the “haves” and the “have-nots” continues to grow (and the middle class to all but disappear), this is destined only to get worse. The world of social media is absolutely blighted right now with comments, memes, and keyboard rage that have painted Turner as unrepentant and narcissistic. And not only are the income classes in an uproar, the racial divide has been further fueled by this case – in fact, to such an extent that law enforcement officers have voiced concerns about violence, protests, and the potential for a Ferguson-level event.
General sentiment seems to be that Turner “got away with rape” because he’s rich, white, and an athlete.
Judge Aaron Persky has similarly been painted with this same broad brush. He’s been accused of being too lenient. Of taking bribes. Of showing favoritism to the defendant as a former star athlete and Stanford graduate himself. Of judicial activism at best, and misconduct at worst.
Frankly, of sentencing while being white, rich, and privileged.
It’s easy to see how the public at large could, without considering the actual facts of this matter, arrive at this conclusion. The problem with that is – it’s completely wrong.
First, the perceptions about Brock seem to stem from two things – Doe’s victim impact statement, and Brock’s father’s impact statement.
The media has pointed repeatedly to a single paragraph excerpt of the three-page letter written to Judge Persky by Dan Turner, Brock’s father, describing Brock to the Judge and the court.
As a rule, individuals are allowed to speak out in open court at the time of sentencing, which is a legal right afforded to both the family of the victim and the family of the accused. The process allows “Impact Statements,” and Brock’s father submitted this one, and he read it out loud to the court on the day Brock was sentenced. Ms. Doe was afforded the same opportunity, for the record, and it is her “victim impact statement” that has been quoted in its entirety, all twelve pages of it, all over the media. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
Only one single paragraph of Brock’s father’s letter to the court, taken very much out of context, was leaked on social media by Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who was charged with creating the very university procedures that were intended to penalize sexual violence on campus. And while Mr. Turner’s choice of words was not, perhaps, the most eloquent, when his letter is read in its entirety, it is clear that Mr. Turner’s reference to “action” is not a cavalier reaction to the charges against his son or the nature of rape and sexual assault in general.
In fact, in early 2014, a full YEAR before Brock Turner walked into that Kappa Alpha frat party, Ms. Dauber‘s procedures came under heavy fire for failing to protect yet another young woman, Leah Francis ‘14, from a violent rape – and then further violated her by imposing a very lenient “punishment” on her rapist. In Leah’s case, her assailant even graduated on time and was permitted to return for graduate school – all on Michele Dauber‘s watch and with the full support of Stanford University’s administration.
Is it any wonder why she is publicly crucifying Dan Turner’s legally entitled and wholly appropriate attempt to defend his son? Or that it is she who is leading the charge to recall Judge Persky?
One thing is for sure – her actions have certainly shifted the focus off of her program’s failures, and by doing so have allowed her to shirk entirely her own professional accountability, as well as the University’s accountability. Of course, in an interview with “Democracynow.org,” Professor Dauber blames Stanford’s current provost, John Etchemendy, and argues that the Turner situation is a natural outcome “when you have a culture of elite, male, athletic privilege.”
As a woman, I am appalled by what should be such a transparent effort to misplace blame and accountability. While the world may be arguably a tiny bit safer having Brock Turner off the streets, this entire situation has done nothing whatsoever to improve campus safety for the rest of the student body. And if Michele Dauber is so concerned about this “culture,” why isn’t she doing something about it?
The second perception issue has been perpetuated by is Doe’s victim impact statement (VIS) itself, which, as mentioned above, has been the focus of much hue and cry in the media. To be clear, there are no strict rules around what can be stated in a VIS other than that the details of the crime cannot be discussed. A VIS is not testimony, and the victim can be cross examined, under oath, as to its content, which is intended to describe the impact that the underlying crime has had on the victim’s life. Although the transcript of the trial has not been released, the VIS has.
Doe’s impact statement does more than just describe her world in the aftermath of that January night. She described the horrors of a trial, the victimization she felt at the hands of a skilled defense attorney, the character assassination that happens every single time a case like this makes it to the inside of a courtroom. She described in excruciating detail exactly what every single victim endures should they decide to press charges and it is a testament to precisely why most victims never pursue that route.
All of that is a brilliant light to shine on an ugly reality – no one is victimized once in cases like this, they are victimized at least three times. Once, by the perpetrator. A second, by the well-meaning medical team tasked with collecting, by the most invasive means necessary, forensic evidence that supports the charges. And the third, in the courtroom.
Reading her account, it’s easy to understand why these go largely unreported, and the victim deciding it’s less painful to live with one nightmare instead of three.
© 2020 The Havok Journal